Kain Lawyers director on how the advent of AI impact opportunities for junior lawyers

The profession will need to identify ways of incentivising and motivating young lawyers

Kain Lawyers director on how the advent of AI impact opportunities for junior lawyers
David Mitchell

The landscape of the legal profession is now quite different from what it used to be, especially for junior lawyers. From David Mitchell’s perspective, young lawyers now have much more options available to them than before.

Thus, he believes that a challenge for the legal industry will be identifying ways of encouraging junior lawyers in a profession that is growing more and more reliant on tech and AI.

In this interview, Mitchell discusses choosing between litigation and transaction law, and what he’s looking forward to in his director role at Kain Lawyers.

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What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I started a law and economics degree because I felt like I should go to university but had no clear sense of what career I wanted to pursue. Through my studies I decided I wanted to pursue a career in litigation, but my early experiences as a front-end transaction lawyer quickly changed my mind about that.

My favourite part of the job is helping people solve problems and I also love the opportunities it presents to learn new things every day. I’m constantly dealing with extremely capable people both inside and outside the legal profession who have different approaches or skills you can adapt.

What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

Kain has a very long and proud history advising on deals across Australia, but has only had a permanent physical presence in Sydney for three years. I’m really excited about being a part of continuing to develop the firm’s presence and reputation in Sydney and also up and down the eastern seaboard in Queensland (my adopted home state) and Victoria.

What should the profession focus more on?

As noted below, legal technology and AI are likely to have a significant impact on the way law is practiced over the next 5-10 years. I expect this will result in the profession needing to focus more of its attention on the skills necessary to implement this technology and the soft skills necessary to complement this technology than the basic technical excellence which has historically been the key to successful practice.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

The effective adoption of legal technology (and the associated need to upskill or reskill as a legal professional) and artificial intelligence is probably the obvious answer here. There is no doubt that being a graduate in a corporate legal practice will look a lot different in 10 years to what it looked like when I was a junior lawyer. One of the associated challenges this presents is finding a way to incentivise and motivate junior lawyers. They have a far greater range of options available to them than was once the case. This is particularly significant in situations where there are fewer opportunities for them at the junior level due to the growing reliance on technology and AI.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to being back in an environment where the sort of work I do (transaction-focused corporate legal work) is the firm’s core business. I had an interesting experience being part of a multi-disciplinary partnership for the past year and a bit and while that structure certainly presents unique opportunities there are also challenges associated with being non-core business. Because of the nature of Kain’s business, all of the systems and processes are set up to promote the success of a corporate transaction practice and I’m looking forward to being a beneficiary of that.

I’m also looking forward to taking advantage of the depth of talent Kain already has (which we are continuing to add to) which makes you confident that work won can be delivered in a way which makes clients happy.

If you weren’t in law, what do you think you’d be doing as a career?

It’s a good question and not one that I have a clear answer to. As is probably true of most lawyers, there are days I wish I was doing something different but I’m yet to come up with anything which I’d enjoy more on a consistent basis.

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